Can I Make An Emergency Call On My Mobile Phone If I Don’t Have A Signal?

Whilst chatting at one of our team’s highly popular Coastal Dog Safety stands a dog owner asked us…”If I don’t have a mobile phone signal how can I call the Coastguard on the beach?”  Your mobile can use any provider’s network for emergency calls to ‘999’ or ‘112’. 

Some parts of the UK coastline and beaches do suffer from poor mobile phone reception.  I noticed on one occasion trying to get a phone signal near impossible on Dumpton Gap in Thanet. However, changing position and moving up to the top of the cliff worked for the EE network when I needed to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ as a person had been cut-off by the tide.

 

We would always encourage people who take part in water activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, off-shore fishing or sailing to invest in a VHF radio and enrol on an RYA radio course.  For coastal walking and most beach related activities a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof case will be sufficient.

communitysafety dogcoastalsafety dumptongap broadstairs savinglivesatsea

One of our Coastal Dog Safety events

Some phone’s will tell you this with ‘Emergency Calls Only’ on the screen.  Even if the phone has no credit it will call. If you’re struggling to make a call in an emergency it’s worth trying the phone on the other side of your head as this maybe enough to block the signal.

How to call for help using your mobile phone

You can also try sending a text to ‘999’ (if pre-registered) if the phone signal is weak as a text may get through.

socialmedia drowningprevention watersafety RNLI Communitysafety

Here’s how to pre-register your mobile phone so that you can send an SMS to the emergency services

  • Send the word ‘register’ in an SMS message to ‘999’
  • You will then receive an SMS message about the service
  • When you have read these SMS messages reply by sending ‘yes’ in an SMS message to 999
  • You will receive a message telling you that your mobile phone is registered or if there is a problem about your registration
  • Your phone MUST BE registered before you use this service
  • Be aware that the text service may take longer than a normal ‘999’ call and it should only be used as a last resort – for example if calling ‘999’ and talking loud would put you in further danger or there is no mobile phone signal whatsoever

 

  • The SMS to ‘999’ must include which emergency service you need, a brief description of the emergency and your location (including any landmarks). An example of a good text “Coastguard required, one male in difficulty in the water Ramsgate main beach close to Wetherspoons. Ramsgate”.
  • Once you have sent a text you will receive a response which will ask for further detail, or indicate that help is en route.
  • Do not assume your message has been sent unless you receive a reply back sometimes this could take up to 2 minutes.  If you do not receive any response try asking someone to call the emergency services.
  • For more information on this system

Why not check out the RNLI mobile phone ‘calling for help’ leaflet below.

respectthewater RNLICOmmunitysafety RNLISeasafety RNLIWatersafety Lifeboats Thanet Kent Broadstairs Dover Whitstable callingforhelp mobilephones coastalsafety knowwhotocall coastguard 999

Carrying a ‘calling for help’ device such as a mobile phone is essential for taking part in any beach or coastal related activity.  Knowing to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ or ‘112’ if you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water straight away providing an accurate location is also essential knowledge if the correctly trained personnel and equipment can be sent to the scene as quickly as possible.  Stay safe!

 

More useful links

‘Calling for Help’ at the coast – but which device should I choose?

How to call for help at the coast

Sign up to our e-newsletter

 

Acknowledgements

RNLI

HM Coastguard